It has been a little over a year now since I started interning in this stunning NW corner of Oregon. On any given day I find myself harvesting native seeds at a BLM seed orchard, attending meetings to coordinate the restoration of a decommissioned dam site, searching mistletoe for butterfly larvae, or adding data to a never-ending pile of spreadsheets. I’ve been fortunate enough to get two extended internships, within 60 miles of each other, which complement each other incredibly well. The first was based out of the BLM’s field office in Salem, and the majority of my work there focused on riparian restoration and native plant materials projects. I traipsed around the Willamette Valley looking for blue elderberry, cascara and nine-bark seeds one day and participated in a design charette for a new recreation day-use facility the next.
Now that I’m in the Portland, OR, office, I work with the Forest Service on an interagency team of rare and threatened species specialists. My daily environment still varies wildly, from my lavender-hued cubicle in the heart of downtown Portland to moss-laden conifer forests and wind-whipped coastlines. Some of my favorite projects were surveying for endangered tiger beetles and Johnson’s hairstreak butterflies, the latter of which I got to do with a fellow CLM intern, Camille Duncan.
Over the last few months I have been working with crews to conduct surveys for a rare polypore fungus, Bridgeoporus nobilissimus. These fungi are associated with true firs, which grow at higher altitudes. The fruiting bodies can be quite large (some up to 5 feet across!) but they are often very inconspicuous, hidden under litter and duff at the base of the trees, and don’t seem to fruit very often. This brings up questions as to how rare the species truly is. Could it be that people often overlook it? Or is it much more prevalent in an ecosystem, but not in fruiting form? To tackle these questions, we designed a protocol to set up random sampling plots around known occurrences and take tree core samples of a variable number of true firs within these plots. The core samples are then sent out to a contractor and tested for B. nobilissimus DNA. The results of this will let us know how to survey for the species in the future, and how to manage our forests for it. Hopefully we can also glean more information about the range of this species, and better insight into its life history.
Our final survey of the season is tomorrow, and then I’ll be tying everything up in the next few weeks before I head off on new adventures. I’ll join the chorus and say that this job has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring. Everyone I have worked with has imparted some little note of wisdom or a new perspective, and my field work has reinforced a personal desire to always work with our wild areas and do what I can to protect them. Next step: grad school!
Candace Fallon, Forest Service Regional Office & BLM State Office, Portland, OR